Many patients are familiar with dental fillings, as they are the most popular way of repairing a cavity within a tooth. For teeth that have large areas of decay or damage, a dental crown may be recommended. However, there are also restorative optionswhen the tooth damage is too big for a simple filling but too small to warrant a crown. In such cases, an inlay or onlay can be used.
Understanding the Types of Restorations
Modern dentistry has greatly improved restorative dentistry in terms of materials and technique. In general, there are two broad categories for dental restorations: direct and indirect.
Restorations that are fabricated entirely in the mouth by your dentist are known as direct restorations. These don’t require a dental lab or a temporary restoration. Typically, direct restorations only require one office visit. Dental fillings (composite or amalgam) are an example of a direct restoration.
On the contrary, dental restorations that require an outside lab or milling machine for fabrication are called indirect restorations. Common examples are crowns, bridges, veneers, dentures, inlays and onlays. Multiple office visits are often required for indirect restorations.
Dental fillings are primarily used for repairing an area of damage or decay within a tooth. Cavities form when bacteria combines with accumulated food particles to produce plaque and acids that erode the enamel of the tooth. If caught early, a cavity can be filled with a dental filling.
Modern dental fillings rely on a tooth-colored composite resin material. Once the decayed portion of the tooth is removed, the dentist will apply the composite resin in layers to restore the tooth and rebuild its integrity. A special curing light is used to harden the filling before it is polished to a natural-looking feel and appearance. Fillings can be made of amalgam or metal as well, but composite resin is the preferred aesthetic solution.
Onlays and Inlays
Onlays and inlays are both pre-made restorations that are used to repair the back teeth or molars. Like its name suggests, an inlay fits inside the chewing surface of a molar that can’t be properly restored with a dental filling. An onlay is similar in purpose but designed larger. Onlays fit on the chewing surface of a molar but extend over the cusps (raised edges) of the tooth as well. Inlays and onlays are perfect for back teeth that are more susceptible to cavities due to the deep pits and grooves of the molar teeth.
Both inlays and onlays are always custom fabricated for each patient. They can be created using advanced CAD/CAM technology for a more precise fit, comfortable digital impression process and onsite milling. This advanced technology can also eliminate the need to wear a temporary restoration. Inlays and onlays can be made from porcelain or gold.
If your dentist suggests an inlay or only, you can expect to gain the following benefits:
- High protection for teeth
- Natural white material and seamless blend within your smile
- Durable coverage to withstand everyday dental function
- Resistant to staining
- Helps prevent further damage, inflammation or infection
- Strengthens tooth by up to 75%
- Resistant to expansion
- Less invasive than a dental crown
Choosing the Right Restoration
Not sure which dental restoration is right for you? Let our experts guide you at Grateful Dental. We are happy to discuss the process in detail as well as which restoration is best for your particular type and severity of tooth damage. In some cases, insurance coverage can help guide your decision.
Regardless of which restoration you choose, you can trust that we will create a positive and comfortable experience at our Marietta office. While we do our best to help patients prevent decay, our dentist is highly equipped to deliver all levels of restorations when needed.